Richard Hugo, a writer, published a book of lectures on how to write. If you’re curious, it’s called The Triggering Town. On the first page, he says that one learns to write not by reading, but by writing. We only read to exercise the imagination, he says. But the imagination is much more easily excited by other things (like taking a walk?). And I thought it would be stupid to continue to read the book, so I have not finished it.
The other day, sitting at a coffee shop, I pointed to my copy of Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, asking my friend, “how does this long-form kind-of experimental styled book translate to the type of content that you create for other people? I mean, this man uses hardly any paragraphs, and has a unique style…and it seems so abstract compared to paid ‘creative’ work. Maybe I’m conscious of this because I create so many short-form tiktoks and Instagram reels these days, and do not know how something longer-form and thoughtful translates to that.”
“There does not need to be a direct translation,” he said. I am not content with that, for if there is no direct translation, I am worried that there is no translation at all.
The other week, or month, I donated half of my books. Most were theology (good riddance!) and some others, like “Wombs and Alien Spirits,” just collected dust, unread. I kept some Georges Bataille books though, even the misogynistic ones (!!!). For some reason, I thought the library would be shocked and excited to receive my pile of books, while I was excited to lose that mediation between language and experience that felt so pointless to me. I even posted a short video about it.
According to some of the authors I read, there is this thing called pure experience, the void, eternity stilled, the mind empty and at ease, a place with no conception, and time with no beginning and no end. I think it’s religious, but it’s at your feet instead of up beyond the stars in heaven. And these authors point to a profane swamp of experience rather than a holy realm above the intellect. Maybe Spirit is involved too, dwelling both in heaven and below. I’m not sure. But both magnificent heaven above and this unintelligible liberated experience underneath our feet are just out of reach. You have to search for them. And I don’t think you’ll ever find them. But there’s no knowing without the search.
I work with social media often, which is a form of collective effervescence. Ask Durkheim about it. I get lost in it.
I stopped reading to do more “creative” stuff, as if I’d lose some stagnant mediation with language and just be purely immersed in “creative” “energy.” I’d get the vibe back probably. No brain just vibes. Obviously that’s stupid: becoming an ignorant participant in a world with no direction.
The thing is, I could tell you that I enjoy creativity that hovers over the face of the deep, stuck in language but pointing to that pure experience. I enjoy that limited process, for it is the only thing that can try to grasp that which is out of reach. It’s a utopian creativity, but that keeps the heart moving, I guess. I could tell you all about this creativity that reaches beyond itself, I could tell you about a language that grasps only to fail; I could tell and it would do little—it’s too polemic, it’s too prescriptive, it’s too much like an instruction manual.
Instead, you could read someone else who’s actually doing it. I’d recommend Richard Hugo, who would probably say to go outside.